News

Berkeley’s Old School Remembers Him

8 August 2017

Gresham’s School, Holt, in Norfolk – alma mater of Benjamin Britten, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and, before all of them, our own Lennox Berkeley – has built a spectacular new music school. Officially opening the new development on 1 July, the Princess Royal named it The Britten Building, in memory of the composer who was a pupil there from 1928 to 1930. Julian Berkeley, second son of Sir Lennox, visited the Britten Building later in July at the invitation of the new Director of Music, John Bowley, and reported enthusiastically that it offers every conceivable facility for music teaching, with modern and comfortable practice, seminar and teaching rooms; a 140-seat auditorium; Steinway pianos; a sophisticated recording studio; and even a café. The building is the culmination of a multi-million pound, five-year project to improve the musical provision at Gresham’s, and is the most significant addition to the school in twenty years. The intention is to make it available not only to the boys and girls of Gresham’s but to music groups throughout North Norfolk.  'Music is the soul of Gresham’s’, the headmaster, Douglas Robb, said at the opening ceremony, 'and the school has a much-celebrated musical history and an exciting future.’ Mr Robb hoped the new building would allow the school 'to nurture those with a musical talent, and help make a lasting difference to our community for many years to come’. Lennox Berkeley was a pupil at Gresham’s throughout the years of the First World War. Through no fault of the school’s he was not happy away from home. When his parents brought him back to Oxford at the age of only fifteen, he left behind at Gresham’s a reputation for charm and kindness, fluent French and a ‘flamboyant’ style at the piano. For its part the school’s legendary Director of Music, Walter Greatorex, nurtured Lennox’s budding talent for music, and introduced him to hymns and to Plainsong (which was later to influence not only his music but also his faith). The school also introduced Lennox to a part of England he never forgot. Attracted by the wild beauty of the North Norfolk coast and its flora and fauna, he and his wife Freda bought a holiday home in the village of Morston half a century later, and the family still has strong connections – and a sailing boat – there today. To commemorate Berkeley’s years at Gresham’s, the music department has decided to name one of the seminar suites in the new music school the Sir Lennox Berkeley Room. As a former freelance tenor familiar with the music of Berkeley, John Bowley is eager to forge links not only with the family but with the Berkeley Society and the Berkeley Ensemble; and he and Julian discussed the possibility of various exciting collaborations including concerts and Study Days in the grand new music school.  TS

The Britten Building, Gresham's School

Lennox Berkeley Society launches on social media

3 August 2017

Thanks to the efforts of LBS Committee members Paul Cott and Thomas Daly, the Lennox Berkeley Society now has:

All three are proving their worth, opening up world-wide means of disseminating the exchange of news, events and activities, and enabling contact between musicians, audiences and others with a common interest in the music of Lennox Berkeley. Do please use these new media channels: you’ll be amazed at the extent and quality of Berkeley activity.

Stabat Mater disc shortlisted for Gramophone Awards

1 August 2017

Stabat Mater CD

The long-awaited world premiere recording of Lennox Berkeley’s masterpiece, the Stabat Mater, sponsored by the Lennox Berkeley Society and released by Delphian Records in June 2016, has been shortlisted for the 2017 Gramophone Awards. The CD is available from Presto Classical. The recording was made by conductor, Berkeley specialist (and former Berkeley Society Chairman) David Wordsworth with the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble in the new Britten Studio at the Snape Maltings, the day after a performance in Blythburgh Parish Church on Good Friday. As part of an ambitious project conceived and masterminded by the Society, there was a subsequent performance at the Spitalfields Festival in Shoreditch Church on 7 June (later broadcast on Radio Three, introduced by the Society’s President, Petroc Trelawny, and including a revealing interview with Michael Berkeley), and there will be a further performance at the Cheltenham Festival at 4pm on Sunday 17 July in the Pittville Pump Room, preceded at 3pm by a discussion including Petroc Trelawny and Michael Berkeley. The Stabat Mater, commissioned by Benjamin Britten for an English Opera Group tour with Peter Pears in 1947, is seldom programmed because of its unconventional scoring. The Shoreditch performance was hailed by the Sunday Times on 12 June as ‘downright astonishing’.  Don’t miss the recording! Also on the disc are: Lennox Berkeley’s Mass for Five Voices, written for the choir of Westminster Cathedral, and his motet Judica Me, with Michael Berkeley’s rapturous meditation on Monteverdi and Purcell, Touch Light, for soprano and counter-tenor soloists and string orchestra.

Marian Consort and Berkeley Ensemble perform Lennox Berkeley's Stabat Mater

The Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble accepting the applause after Stabat Mater (conducted by David Wordsworth) at the Spitalfields Festival on 7 June 2016

A Dinner Engagement at Cambridge University

May 2017

Dinner Engagement Cambridge University Opera Society poster

Cambridge University Opera Society is staging a production of Berkeley's one-act comedy A Dinner Engagement at Fitzpatrick Hall, Queen's College, on Saturday 24th June, at the end of May Week. It's believed to be the first time the piece has been performed in Cambridge. The producer, Anna Semple, describes the opera as 'a frothy, delightful tale of love amongst the vegetables', as the impoverished Lord and Lady Dunmow prepare dinner for the rich and eligible Prince Philippe to whom they hope to marry their daughter - but 'absolutely everything goes terribly wrong'. Anna promises 'a colourful new take on Berkeley's very modern modern opera', in which despite the dramas, the first buds of young love start to open'. The musical director will be Stephanie Childress; casting is still in progress. Tickets are available through www.cuos.co.uk

Lennox Berkeley Society Award for Guitar 2017

January 2017

Lennox Berkeley Society Award for Guitar 2017 entrants

Emma Smith (left), Ioannis Theodoridis, Emmanuel Sowicz and Gary Ryan (right)

The class for the seventh Award for Guitar was held at Headington School, Oxford on January 29. Three guitarists took part: Ioannis Theodoridis, Emma Smith and Emmanuel Sowicz.

Ioannis played first, and began with Michael Berkeley's beautiful little Impromptu. This was given a sensitive, nuanced account with good melodic line and balance of the outer voices. There followed Lennox's Theme and Variations, Op. 77. The music was well-shaped and the variations effectively constructed: a performance showing precision and elegance, and the epilogue just right.

Emma played next, performing the Sonatina Op. 52. Her playing was well-articulated with good clear tone. In the first movement, the subjects were considerately beated. The Lento was well-shaped with some delicate touches, and her pizzicato technique was subtle. The Rondo theme of the last movement was well-expressed, and Emma showed an excellent tremolo technique. The expressive melodic episode was slower than usual, but effective for that choice. All in all an individual, interesting version of a work that is probably the most difficult of the solo guitar works by Lennox Berkeley.

Emmanuel Sowicz performed the Quatre Pièces of 1927 or 1928. He played very well, giving to each movement a strong sense of purpose, and a feeling of coherence to the whole work. Particular assets were strong sense of rhythm, wide dynamic range and beautiful tone. The Sarabande was an expressive highlight. Hearing the pieces on this occasion really showed how well Lennox wrote for the guitar even at the beginning of his career.

The guitarists were glad to receive the comments of Gary Ryan, whose adjudication combined expertise and encouragement. The award went to Ioannis, but Gary felt that each of the players were worthy of it.

This class was a particular pleasure in that all of Lennox's solo guitar music was presented.

Christopher Daly

A Berkeley Feast at St. John's Smith Square

January 2017

Olivia Ray

Olivia Ray

The New London Orchestra conductor Ronald Corp will be performing two of Lennox Berkeley’s most popular works in a programme of Mozart and Elgar at St. John’s Smith Square, London, on Wednesday 1 March at 7.30.

The concerns opens with Mozart’s motet Sancta Maria, in which the orchestra will be joined by the London Chorus, and the Missa Brevis, with soloists Olivia Ray, Augusta Hebbert, Alessandro Fisher and Joseph Kennedy. Then comes Elgar’s Sea Pictures, in an arrangement for choir and strings by Donald Fraser. And the programme is completed by Berkeley’s Four Poems of St. Teresa of Avila and the Serenade for Strings.

The soloist in the Teresa Songs will be the mezzo-soprano Olivia Ray, who studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, English National Opera's programme for young opera singers, The Knack, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In recent seasons Olivia has made her mark at Grange Park Opera as Flora in La Traviata, Enrichetta di Francia in I Puritani and Soeur Mathilde in Dialogues des Carmélites. Berkeley won’t be unfamiliar territory, although the roles are as far apart as can be imagined: in 2004 she sang the part of Mrs Kneebone in the one-acter A Dinner Engagement on an East Anglian tour with Opera East.

Tickets for the St John’s concert cost £20, £15 and £10 and are available from the Box Office by telephone at 020 7222 1061.

A Berkeley Harpsichord Premiere

December 2016

Richard Itter

Christopher Lewis

A harpsichord suite which Lennox Berkeley wrote when he was 27 has been found in the Berkeley manuscript collection at the British Library and published for the first time by Chester Music. The Suite for the Harpsichord dates from the middle of Berkeley’s studentship with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in 1930, and is dedicated to his friend, the amateur harpsichordist Vere Pilkington, for whom he wrote a number of earlier keyboard works while they were both at Oxford In the Twenties.  The work has been edited by the young harpsichordist Christopher D. Lewis, who gave what is thought to have been the world premiere at Mottisfont in October. It’s in five distinct movements, starting with a powerful ‘Lento’ and ending with a tuneful ‘March’; it lasts about a quarter of an hour. The new publication costs £8.99 and is available from Chester Music.

Bazouker

October 2016

Bazouker Cover

Lennox Berkeley’s paternal grandfather and namesake is the subject of a handsome new book by Tony Scotland. All families have a black sheep, some can rustle up a whole flock. In a recorded history stretching back to the Anglo-Saxons, the Berkeleys of Berkeley Castle have fielded more than their fair share of cads. One was involved in the murder of Edward II, another sparked a war with America, a third falsified the records to try to prove his children were legitimate, and two gave the castle away to spite their next of kin. One of the family’s most colourful scoundrels was Captain Lennox Berkeley, the 7th earl. Wife-stealer, Bashi-Bazouk and Redshirt, chronic gambler and zither-player, he died a bankrupt and outlaw, leaving three sons, only one of whom was legitimate. The eldest, Hastings, became a captain in the Royal Navy (and father of Sir Lennox), the second, Ernest, was a British Consul, and the third, Randal – the only legitimate son – inherited the earldom, the castle and a vast fortune. On Randal’s death without issue the title fell into dormancy, and the castle was willed to distant cousins. Tony Scotland, author of a biography of the composer (Lennox & Freda, Michael Russell Publishing, 2010), has pieced together the few remaining records to tell the story of the Berkeleys’ most elusive black sheep.

BAZOUKER: The untold scandals of Captain Lennox Berkeley, 7th Earl of Berkeley is designed by Libanus Press and published by Shelf Lives. A slim volume of 64 pages, with 18 photographs and a new Berkeley Pedigree, it is available on amazon.co.uk at £15 plus postage, but Tony Scotland is offering a special price of £10 including postage for members of the Lennox Berkeley Society. Please contact the publisher at Shelf Lives through shelflives@icloud.com.

Berkeley's Shakespeare Music

September 2016

Peggy Ashcroft as Paulina (second left) in Peter Wood's production of The Winter's Tale at Straford in 1960

Peggy Ashcroft as Paulina (second left) in Peter Wood's production of The Winter's Tale at Straford in 1960

Incidental music which Lennox Berkeley wrote for a production of The Winter’s Tale at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford in 1960 has been revived by the Royal Shakespeare Company for a concert of modern British Shakespeare music in London, later this month. It’ll be played by the Southbank Sinfonia (conductor Simon Over) in a programme including Vaughan Williams’ music for Richard II and Rubbra’s for Macbeth.  Guest actors taking part in the concert include Patricia Hodge, David Threlfall and Samuel West. The concert will take place at St John’s, Smith Square, starting at 7.30 pm and in a pre-concert talk at 6.30 pm, Bruce O'Neil, Head of Music at the RSC will reveal more about the company’s mission to bring its historic scores back to life. A suite of nine movements from The Winter’s Tale score was published by Chester Music in 1962. Berkeley also wrote incidental music for a production of The Tempest at Stratford in 1946, and Decca recorded some of the songs from it. Scores of both these Shakespeare settings can be found at the British Library.

Berkeley Treasures from Lyrita

September 2016

Richard Itter

Richard Itter right, with Sir Adrian Boult, the conductor who played a significant role in his move into orchestra recording

Continuing their releases of the Itter Broadcast Collection, Lyrita Records have just brought out a new CD [REAM1129] of three major Berkeley religious works, in performances which were originally broadcast on BBC Radio Three and have never been commercially available before. The first work on the new disc is the Stabat Mater (1947), performed by soloists of the Ambrosian Singers with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Norman Del Mar, in the Friends’ Meeting House, London, and broadcast in 1965. This will be particularly interesting in the light of our own, Lennox Berkeley Society, CD of the same work recorded by Delphian with the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble conducted by David Wordsworth. Read John Quinn’s fascinating review, comparing both recordings - and buy the disc - on the Music Web International website. The second work on the Lyrita disc is the cantata, Batter My Heart, Three-Person’d God (1962), with the soprano Felicity Harrison, the organist Donald Hunt, the BBC Northern Singers and members of the BBC Northern Sympthony Orchestra, conducted by the composer, and broadcast in 1963; this was the work’s UK premiere, the first performance having taken place in New York with the Riverside Church Choir, which commissioned it. And the third work is the world premiere of  the Magnificat (1967-8), with the Choirs of St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Berkeley himself, in St Paul’s Cathedral, and broadcast in 1968.  All three broadcasts were recorded off transmission by the enterprising founder of Lyrita, Richard Itter, on professional equipment he installed at his home in Burnham. These are just three of some 1500 British works he recorded  from 1952 to 1996 - broadcasts which, but for Richard Itter, would have been lost to history. In 2014 the Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust begun to transfer this priceless archive, and has now put in place formal agreements with the BBC and the Musicians Union to enable the public release of items from it. Read more about Richard Itter and the Lyrita project on the Lyrita website.

Stabat Mater recording is 'a major statement'

July 2016

 

David Wordsworth

David Wordsworth

To mark the release of Delphian's stunning CD of Berkeley's great Stabat Mater, recorded in Blythburgh on Good Friday, the conductor David Wordsworth has given an interview about the work on the Presto Classical website.  He describes the Stabat Mater as showing not only Berkeley's 'very particular voice', but 'a rather more passionate and intense side of his musical character'. It really is, he tells Katherine Cooper, 'a major statement'. Read the full interview, describing the birth of the Society's Stabat Mater project, Wordsworth's determination to use a vocal ensemble that blends with the instrumentalists, and his ideas for future Berkeley recordings.

And to take advantage of a special introductory offer for the purchase of the new disc, press 'More' at the foot of the interview, which will take you to the Presto shop. The offer expires on August 31, 2016.

'A searing and expert performance'

July 2016

 

Delphian's recording of Berkeley's Stabat Mater has been warmly received by the music critic John Quinn, in a thoughtful review on the widely-respected website, Music Web International.

 

The Marian Consort

The Marian Consort

Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Stabat Mater, Op 28 (1947) [32:17]
Mass for Five Voices, Op 64 (1964) [13:45]
Judica me, Op 96 No 1(1978) [7:19]
Michael BERKELEY (b. 1948)
Touch Light (2005) [7:35]
The Marian Consort/Rory McCleery; Berkeley Ensemble/David Wordsworth
rec. 26-29 March 2016, The Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh
Latin texts and English translations included
DELPHIAN DCD34180 [60:59]

Religious music was an important strand in Lennox Berkeley’s compositional output – he became a Roman Catholic in 1929 – though it was only in the 1940s that he started to compose music for liturgical use.

One of his most important religious works was his setting of the Stabat Mater. I’m not entirely sure if the present recording is its first – in his excellent notes David Wordsworth says it has “never [been] recorded on CD” - but I rather suspect this is the first recording. On the face of it that’s a surprise since the work is eloquent and important. However, Wordsworth tells us that the score was neglected after a 1953 Aldeburgh Festival performance until the mid-1970s so it clearly fell out of fashion. I wonder if part of the reason is the forces required. It is scored for six voices (SSATBB) and I’m sure it could only be performed by six solo voices – and very good ones at that - since a larger group of singers would upset the equilibrium with the accompaniment. The instrumental forces comprise a woodwind quintet, string quartet, double bass, harp and percussion. It seems to me that one of Berkeley’s many achievements in this score is to transcend the ‘limitations’ of the fairly small forces; often the work seems to be a bigger piece.

The medieval Latin text is here divided into ten short movements. Berkeley varies his forces imaginatively so that the full ensemble is only needed in the first and last movements. Elsewhere there are two movements for vocal quartet. There’s a duet for two sopranos in the second movement and for the rest solo voices are employed. I mentioned Berkeley’s ability to make his music sound bigger than the forces involved. We get a case of that in the opening movement. Here, after a somewhat cool instrumental introduction the writing becomes altogether more intense, especially at the passage beginning ‘Cujus animam gementem’.

Later on, the fourth movement ‘Pro peccatis’ is sung by a vocal quartet and the writing for both the singers and instrumentalists is very dramatic; there’s plenty of tension in both the music and the performance. The following movement, ‘Eia, Mater’ is a tenor solo containing music of intense lyricism. Benedict Hymas does this very well indeed. There’s plangent and strongly focused singing from Rory McCleery in the seventh movement, an alto solo (‘Fac me tecum pie flere’). The section that follows, ‘Virgo virginum praeclara’ is for SATB quartet and the instruments are silent for almost the entire movement; here the vocal writing features very close harmonies. The last movement, ‘Christe, cum sit hinc exire’, reunites the full ensemble, starting with an extended instrumental introduction – as in the opening section. Here the singers exhibit great commitment, delivering a deeply-felt performance. For the last minute or so the music becomes much more subdued and attains a gentle radiance which brings the work to a very satisfying conclusion.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the Stabat Mater before but I have no hesitation in saying that it’s a marvellous work. Berkeley responds to the text with great feeling and sensitivity and though inevitably the tone is very serious there’s no want of variety in the music. The score’s cause is helped by the fact that it receives a searing and expert performance. This may be the work’s debut on disc but it’s been worth the wait to hear it in a performance of such quality.

The Mass for Five Voices (SSATB), in which the Marian Consort is directed by Rory McCleery, was composed for the choir of Westminster Cathedral in 1964. David Wordsworth points out that its composition came during an extended period in which Berkeley “experimented liberally with twelve-note procedures”. Perhaps that accounts for the austere, even astringent nature of some of the writing. I would imagine that the Westminster choir found it a challenge although doubtless the challenges were successfully met under the guidance of Colin Mawby, then the Director of Music. The music is often unsettled and I have to say that I found it music that I admired but did not find it easy to come to terms with. I rather suspect I would find it easier to assimilate if the movements were heard individually in a liturgical context. The movement which exerted the strongest appeal for me was the Agnus Dei where the writing has a grave beauty and achieves a very gratifying sense of repose.

A much stronger appeal to the senses is exerted by the a capella motet Judica me (SSATBB) which was composed for the 1978 Three Choirs Festival. This is a setting of verses from Psalm 42. David Wordsworth rightly draws attention to echoes of Poulenc, especially near the start. The harmonies are often searching, though often warm, and the vocal lines flow beautifully. I imagine that the piece was intended for performance by a full choir – probably at Evensong – but the use of just six voices here ensures that the part writing is heard with tremendous clarity. For the most part the music is reflective and prayerful in tone though Berkeley is briefly joyful at ‘Confitebor tibi in cithara, Domine’ (‘I will sing your praises on the cithara, O God’). This lovely piece receives a super performance here. My only slight regret is that the companion piece, Ubi caritas et amor was not also included – the two were published together as Op. 96.

To complete the programme we hear a single work by Lennox Berkeley’s son, Michael. Touch Light, for which he provided his own text, was written for the Tetbury Festival in 2005 to celebrate a marriage. It’s scored for soprano and alto soloists (Zoë Brookshaw and Rory McCleery) and string quintet. This is the only piece on the disc for which the text is not, at first sight, provided. In fact, it’s contained within the notes, so all is well. The two singers are given rapturous lines to sing against what is a kind of ground bass accompaniment from the strings. Here, the singing is ecstatic, both soloists offering great intensity. This piece by Berkeley fils is a fine complement to his father’s music.

This is a very important disc in that it presents an unjustly neglected English vocal work of the highest quality; furthermore, the performance is superb. Indeed, all are top quality and if my admiration is greatest for the setting of Stabat Mater the music that constitutes the remainder of the programme is also distinguished. Previously I’ve only heard The Marian Consort in Tudor consort music but here they prove themselves equally adept in twentieth century repertoire while the Berkeley Ensemble make a fine contribution also.

It’s very fitting that the recording should have been made at the Snape Maltings for it was Benjamin Britten who prompted Berkeley to write the Stabat Mater. Many of the previous Delphian discs I’ve heard have been recorded in churches but the results obtained in this secular venue are just as impressive. The sound is clear, vivid and expertly balanced.

Admirers of Lennox Berkeley’s music should put this disc at the top of their shopping list

These artists will be offering a rare chance to hear a live performance of the Stabat Mater in a concert at the Cheltenham Music Festival on Sunday, 17 July 2016. The programme will also include Touch Light: (details here).

© John Quinn, MusicWeb International

Reproduced by kind permission of John Quinn and Music Web International (the largest non-commercial classical music resource on the web, which posts ten new reviews each weekday at www.musicweb-international.com.

Mexican guitar Sonatina video released

June 2016

The guitarist Jesús Martinez Garnica approached the Society in 2015 with the idea of making a video recording of the Sonatina Op. 52 no.1. With help and encouragement from the Society, the project went ahead and the delightful result is shown here.

Jesús was born in Mexico City in 1988 and began playing the guitar at the age of 13. He went on to study with Juan Carlos Laguna, and has attended masterclasses with David Russell, Carlos Bonell and other distinguished guitarists. Jesús has performed as soloist with orchestras, and in 2013 won the soloist competition of the Escuela Nacional de Musica.

He is working on another audiovisual project called Paisage virtual sonoro, which intends to bring classical music to a new, young audience by combining landscape, music and cinema.

BMS special offer on Terroni's Berkeley CD

May 2016

Music for Solo Piano and Piano Duet by Lennox Berkeley.  BMS 416CD

The British Music Society has a small remaining stock of the original issue of the recording by Raphael Terroni and Norman Beedie of piano music by Lennox Berkeley for solo and duet, on BMS 416CD, and the Hon. Treasurer of the BMS, Stephen Trowell, who is a member of our own Society, has offered to let us have this disc, while stocks last, at the special price of £5 a copy, including UK postage (overseas postage details on application). If you would like to order, please send an email to stephentrowell43 at gmail dot com. Reviewing the CD in the Gramophone in 1994, Peter Dickinson said, 'This is some of the finest British piano music of the century'. Our foundress, Kathleen Walker, has long been an admirer of the artistry of the late Raphael Terroni, and she points out that this original disc would make a welcome present for any musician.

Two new Berkeley recordings released

April 2016

British Harpsichord Music

Two new CDs of rarely heard works by Lennox Berkeley have just become available. One is a recording of his two early pieces for harpsichord, written for his friend Vere Pilkington while both were still at Oxford in the 1920s: Mr Pilkington's Toye and For Vere. They are played by the young Welsh harpsichordist, Christopher D. Lewis, who is studying Berkeley's harpsichord music as part of his PhD programme at Southampton University; he writes about this in the current issue of the Berkeley Society Journal. The Berkeley works come in a compilation of modern British harpsichord music, with works by Herbert Howells, John Jeffreys and Gavin Bryars, on Naxos 8573668.

Edmund Rubbra complete chamber music

The other new recording is on Lyrita SRCD353: the complete chamber music & songs with harp by Edmund Rubbra, plus two other works for solo harp, Berkeley's Nocturne of 1967 and Howells' Prelude No 1 of 1951. The harpist is Danielle Perrett who recalls that the Berkeley piece was written for the brilliant teenage harpist Hannah Francis, and notes that it is a delightful work not often performed,'which is a pity, as it is fully characteristic of the composer'. The Executive Producer of this new disc was Adrian Yardley (a son of Rubbra, and a member of the Berkeley Society), who writes about the Catholic links between Rubbra and Berkeley in the new Berkeley Society Journal.

First Symphony takes to the skies in memory of Lady Berkeley

April 2016

Emirates Airlines aircraft

World travellers flying by Emirates will soon have the chance to hear music by Lennox Berkeley. In a concert of music by teachers and their pupils, the composer and broadcaster Chris de Souza, who has presented the airline's Classical Channel for twenty-five years, has programmed the 'Lento' movement from the First Symphony - and dedicated it to the memory of Freda Berkeley. By a curious coincidence Berkeley found the key to the start of this symphony on his very first flight, from London to Jersey in the summer of 1936, though he didn't return to serious work on it till 1941, when he was staying at Berkeley Castle. The pupil paired with Berkeley is the late Sir John Tavener, who said of the First Symphony that it possessed a delicacy reminiscent of Mozart. Chris de Souza, who has been an admirer of Berkeley's music for many years, said that hearing the piano concertos in the Chandos recordings had inspired him to continue with his own composing. He has long been a friend of the family, and is a member of the Berkeley Society.

TS

Festival performances and first recording of the Stabat Mater

March 2016

Lennox Berkeley Stabat Mater

In the most ambitious project it has ever undertaken, the Lennox Berkeley Society has organised, and found the funding for, a recording and three prestigious performances of one of Berkeley's greatest works, the Stabat Mater – the Latin hymn to Mary at the Cross. The first concert took place on Good Friday, 25 March at 6.00pm in Blythburgh Church, performed by the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble conducted by former chairman of the LBS, David Wordsworth. The concert will also feature music by Michael Berkeley and Benjamin Britten. During the following days, a CD of the Blythburgh programme will be made in the Britten studio at Snape by Delphian Records. Tickets for the concert are available online. Two further performances of the Stabat Mater, with the same forces, are planned for the summer. The first – part of the Spitalfields Festival – will take place in Shoreditch Church on 7 June at 8.00pm (download flyer), and the second will be on Sunday 17 July at 4pm in the Pittville Pump Room as part of the Cheltenham Festival. Tickets can be bought online or by telephone to the box office on 01242 850270. The work is dedicated to Benjamin Britten, who conducted the first UK performance, with the English Opera Group (and soloists including Peter Pears) in the Friends House, Euston, on 26 September 1947, five weeks after the world premiere in Zurich, which Berkeley himself conducted.

The Society is dedicating the performances of the Stabat Mater to the memory of its late Patron, Lady Berkeley.

Lady Freda Berkeley

24 February 2016

Lady Freda Berkeley

It is with deep sadness that we have to announce the death of our Patron, Lady Berkeley, peacefully, at the Kensington Nursing Home, on Sunday afternoon the 21st February, aged 92.

An Old Rite Latin Requiem Mass took place in Freda’s parish church, St. Mary of the Angels, Moorhouse Road, London W2 5DJ, at 10am on Monday 29th February, and burial followed at midday in All Souls Cemetery, Harrow Road, Kensal Green, London W10 4RA.

For those who were unable to attend there will be a memorial concert on another occasion.

(This photograph was taken at the Kensington Nursing Home on 27th February last year by Freda’s neighbour at Hereford Mansions, Dr Edesio Fernandes, and reproduced with his kind permission.)

Berkeley Ensemble CD wins a Gramophone Critics' Choice of the year

20 December 2015

The Berkeley Ensemble's all-Berkeley CD, Lennox Berkeley Chamber Works (Resonus RES10149) has been selected by the Gramophone magazine as a Critics' Choice of 2015. In the December issue Peter Dickinson writes that 'The outstanding young Berkeley Ensemble has gained first-rate reviews for this second CD - all well-deserved … A most enjoyable collection in every way'. See our earlier Headline: Another Accolade for the Berkeley Ensemble, 4 August 2015.

A Berkeley Premiere

6 December 2015

Emmanuel Bach

The Lennox Berkeley Society is pleased to announce that the first UK public performance of Berkeley’s early Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1 is to be given at the Royal College of Music in London on Friday 19th February 2016. The violinist will be Emmanuel Bach, who is studying for a Masters degree at the RCM, having graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford, with a First in music. (Emmanuel and the pianist Jennifer Stern played the sonata for members of the Committee of the Berkeley Society at a private concert in Hampshire in January this year.)

The Society’s President, Petroc Trelawny, will introduce the concert, which also includes works by Berkeley's teacher, Nadia Boulanger, by Stanley Bate (also a pupil of Boulanger) and by Bate’s other teacher, Hindemith. To complement the programme the RCM Library will be exhibiting original manuscripts from its own collection, including the violin part of the Berkeley sonata. The display will also include the new Chester Music/Music Sales publication of the sonata, and the CD made by the violinist Edwin Paling and the pianist Arabella Teniswood-Harvey of the first-ever recording of the sonata (on the Australia label Move Records MD 3361). The composer’s second son, Julian Berkeley, will be contributing to this small exhibition some memorabilia of his own – letters, photos, and a diamond pin – given to him by Nadia Boulanger, who was his godmother. The Society is hoping that this concert will herald a new association with the Royal College of Music, introducing more students to the work of Lennox Berkeley. The concert is free, but tickets are required; for further details see here.

John Mark Ainsley records Five Auden Songs

 

9 October 2015

John Mark Ainsley

In a new CD called French Connections, the tenor John Mark Ainsley and the pianist Malcolm Martineau perform Lennox Berkeley’s Five Poems of W. H. Auden, in a programme that includes Poulenc’s Tel jour, telle nuit, Britten’s The Holy Sonnets of John Donne and a set of songs by the American composer Jake Heggie, paying homage to Poulenc through four of his formative friendships. Berkeley set his five Auden poems in 1958 to a commission from the American soprano and patron Alice Esty, who gave their first performance in New York. Given the complicated relationship of Berkeley, Britten and Auden, it is significant that all but the first of the poems, Lauds, had already been set by Britten. But, although the friendship of Auden and Britten is better known, the friendship of Auden and Berkeley went further back, for the two first became friends as undergradutes at Oxford, when Berkeley set two Auden poems, which the poet C. Day Lewis sang for the first time at the Oxford Musical Club and Union in 1926. The new disc, produced by Linn Records (CKD 477), will be available from 13 November.

Shakespeare – and Wordsworth

 

17 September 2015

The conductor and pianist David Wordsworth, a former Chairman of the Lennox Berkeley Society, has compiled and edited a Shakespeare Choral Collection for Novello Publishing, to mark the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April next year.  The collection of 26 works features established settings such as Thomas Arne's Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind and Henry Leslie's How Sweet The Moonlight Sleeps as well as more recent works – Ernest Moeran's Sigh No More, Ladies, and John Tavener's Fear No More – and several new works specially commissioned from John Joubert and Richard Sissons, amongst others. Included in the anthology is Lennox Berkeley’s Hymn for Shakespeare’s Birthday [in 1972] which sets a text by C. Day Lewis. David Wordsworth has written a fascinating introduction to the collection, together with notes describing each piece. The new volume is available from Novello’s. David Wordsworth is also Artistic Director of ‘Singing Shakespeare’, a major project supported by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and running through to the four hundredth birthday next Spring. ‘Singing Shakespeare’ focuses on choirs all over the world singing new and existing settings of Shakespeare texts. David conducted choirs from Stratford-upon-Avon in the launch concert at Holy Trinity, Stratford in April 2014, in a programme that included Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, as well as a newly-commissioned work from Gary Carpenter and Stephen Sondheim’s song Fear no More in a new arrangemend made by David himself with the permission of the composer.

Another Accolade for the Berkeley Ensemble

 

4 August 2015

The Berkeley Ensemble’s much-praised all-Berkeley CD, Lennox Berkeley Chamber Works (Resonus RES10149) has been selected by BBC Music Magazine as the ‘Chamber Choice’ or September. In his five-star review, the writer, pianist and broadcaster Roger Nichols, one of the leading scholars of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French music*, praises the ‘stylish’ and ‘very enjoyable’ album, adding that ‘the playing is superb throughout’: ‘the Berkeley Ensemble do their namesake proud’. Nichols also draws attention to the five-star quality of the recording itself, and to Tony Scotland's ‘elegant, illuminating notes’. Reviewing the same CD in the Sunday Times, Paul Driver wrote: ‘Outstanding in the exuberantly performed sequence are the expressive central adagio of the Op 19 String Trio and the 1971 Introduction and Allegro for double bass (Lachlan Radford) and piano (Libby Burgess).’ Geoffrey Norris, in the Sunday Telegraph, awarded the new disc four stars, noting the ‘high quality of the performances’ and saying that the ensemble ‘plays as if it were truly inside the music’. You can  read more about the CD, sample the tracks, and order your copy at http://www.resonusclassics.com/lennox-berkeley-chamber-works.

*Roger Nichols is the author of biographies of Ravel and Debussy, and of The Harlequin Years: Music in Paris 1917–1929.

The Berkeley Ensemble

The Berkeley Ensemble (photo Belinda Lawley)

London Festival of Contemporary Church Music

 

16 May 2015

The internationally-renowned vocal ensemble the Marian Consort will perform works by Berkeley father and son in a programme of British sacred music influenced by the music of the Renaissance, at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music in St Pancras Church, London, on 16 May 2015 at 7.30pm. From the austere beauty of Lennox Berkeley’s Mass for Five Voices and Michael Berkeley’s motet Ego dilecto meo to Gabriel Jackson’s alternatim Magnificat setting for Truro Cathedral, the programme has been conceived as part of the liturgy of today, while capturing the essence of the past. The Marian Consort are also joined by Oxford Youth Choir and the Lacock Scholars for the second performance of Emily Levy’s In Paradisum, written for The Marian Consort, SATB choir and children’s chorus, which sets portions of the Latin Requiem rite juxtaposed with poetry by Andre Dubus on the themes of loss, hope and consolation.

2015 Berkeley Society Journal out now

 

The new edition of the Berkeley Society Journal offers an instructive and entertaining collection of articles and photographs about Berkeley and his music. As an introduction to the operatic double bill at the Royal Academy of Music on 14 May, when students will perform Berkeley's comic opera A Dinner Engagement and Walton's extravaganza The Bear, Michael Berkeley gives an insight into the friendship between the two composers; performer, teacher and composer Richard Leigh Harris writes about his personal Best of Berkeley; Tony Scotland reveals the use of Berkeley's Divertimento as cultural propaganda just after the war - and unmasks the penultimate Countess of Berkeley as the musical comedy star Edith Brandon; American online critic Steve Schwartz examines Berkeley's sacred choral music; Scottish composer John McLeod recalls his period of study with Berkeley in 1959; and Swedish-Greek guitarist Ioannis Theodoridis analyses Berkeley's Theme & Variations for Guitar - and finds traces of Beethoven. You can read the whole of Theodoridis' thesis here - or the edited version and all the other articles in the new Journal by joining the Berkeley Society now.

New Publications

 

15 December 2014: Violin Sonata No. 1

Lennox Berkeley's Violin Sonata No.1 sheet music

The success of the new CD of the Complete Music for Violin and Piano and Solo Violin, played by Edwin Paling and Arabella Teniswood-Harvey (see below) encouraged the Lennox Berkeley Society to seek publication of the manuscript of Lennox Berkeley's Violin Sonata No.1. J & W Chester have now made this exciting the work available, and Paling and Teniswood-Harvey's performing score has been consulted for this first publication, which has had the support of the Society. The source is a manuscript in a copyist’s hand now at the British Library. Violin and Piano score available at £15.95 from:

http://www.musicroom.com/se/id_no/01110530/details.html?kbid=1296

 

3 November 2014: Composer Portraits Lennox Berkeley

Composer Portraits Lennox Berkeley

Following the centenary publication of Chester Music's comprehensive volume of the Collected Works for Solo Piano, Wise Publications have recently published a new collection of Lennox Berkeley's piano pieces, as an introduction to the composer's music, in their COMPOSER PORTRAITS series. The selection is arranged with a descriptive text by Peter Dickinson preceding each of the chosen pieces and there is biographical preface by Michael Berkeley. The volume is available at £9.95 from:

http://www.musicroom.com/se/id_no/01098090/details.html

Sonatina performed in Royal College of Music Recital Series

14 June 2014

 

Luce Zurita and Freddie Bager playing LB Sonatina June 2014

French flautist Luce Zurita and British pianist Frederic Bager, both students of the Royal College of Music in London, performed the Berkeley Sonatina in a programme with Fauré’s Fantaisie and Reinecke’s Undine Sonata at the RCM Recital Series at the Trinity Music Academy on 14 June. Frederic gave Luce a copy of the Berkeley Society leaflet and she told us, ‘I read pretty much everything and it was really inspiring before playing the Sonatina, which is a little jewel as we say in French! I am going to play it again for a scholarship audition, and I would be very happy to feature either the Sonatina or the Sonata next term at RCM with Freddie’. As an orchestral freelance Luce plays with the Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras of the RCM, and the Orchestra of the Opera of Rouen; as a soloist she will be joining the harpist Valeria Kurbatova for the world premiere of a double concerto by Darrell Davison, with the Epsom Symphony Orchestra, in Epsom on 18 October. Frederic, who is a member of the Berkeley Society, was raised in Switzerland and began playing the piano at the age of four. He won first prize in the Swiss Young Musicians Contest in 2005, and he was a keyboard finalist in the 2010 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. At the RCM he studies with Andrew Ball.

Lennox Berkeley and the Classical Guitar

12 May 2014

 

The Royal Academy of Music has repeated – and expanded – the Berkeley elements of the Lennox Berkeley Society Guitar Day programme to celebrate Lennox’s birthday on May 12, and to mark 25 years since his death. The new programme included three more of Berkeley’s guitar works – the Quatre pièces he wrote for Segovia, Theme and Variations written for Angelo Gilardino, and the Concerto commissioned by Julian Bream - to offer a survey of his complete oeuvre for the instrument. The concert was given by Academy students.
Monday 12 May 2014, 6:00 pm in the David Josefowitz Recital Hall, RAM

Artists: Julian Gregory, tenor, Michael Butten, Mircea Gogoncea, Andrey Lebedev and Merlin Miller, guitars

Music: Berkeley Quatre pièces; Sonatina, op.52 no.1; Songs of the Half-Light, op.65; Theme and Variations, op.77; Concerto, op.88

Lennox Berkeley was professor of composition at the Academy from 1946 to 1968.

Berkeley's guitar music explored at the Royal Academy of Music

16 February 2014

 

This special Lennox Berkeley event took place at the Royal Academy of Music on Sunday, 16 February 2014.

This year we explored Lennox's writing for the guitar, with performances of the Sonatina Opus 52 and Songs of the Half Light. Passionate about the guitar, Berkeley found the ideal collaborator and interpreter in Julian Bream. Both works were written for Bream, and the event will consider his influence on Lennox's writing – we hope to have contributions from Bream himself. Britten's Nocturnal, another Bream work, will also feature, along with songs by John Dowland, who so influenced both men.

As ever the concert featured rising stars from the Academy – this year guitarist Michael Butten and tenor Julian Gregory.

If you have been before you will know what a special event this is, with inspiring performance and a convivial reception following the concert.

The Royal Academy of Music Berkeley Day is generously supported by Noriyuki Ida in memory of his daughter Kumiko Ida, a former RAM student and member of the Berkeley Society committee.

Petroc Trelawny, Chairman